[Editorial] Agricultural Self-Reliance

Quick revision mind map

Context

No army can march on an empty stomach

  • In the backdrop of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, Our Prime Minister has emphasized the need for India to be Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) in defence equipment.
  • For the Amrit Kaal (next 25 years) that the government has announced, we need to be self-reliant not just in missiles (defence equipment) but also in meals (food).
  • As the old proverb goes, no army can march on an empty stomach.
  • “Jai jawan, jai kisan” (salutation to the soldier and salutation to the farmer) was the slogan given by Late Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee added “jai vigyan” (salutation to the scientist) to that.

What the editorial is about?

  • The need for India to reorient its approach to agricultural self-reliance with a great focus on R&D.
  • Focusing on science and scientists is critical for attaining self-reliance today.

Self-Reliance in Food

Meaning

  • It does not mean that we have to produce everything ourselves at home, irrespective of the cost.
  • Its true meaning lies in specializing in commodities in which we have a comparative advantage, exporting them, and importing those in which we don’t have a significant comparative advantage.

No high tariff walls/protection

  • It is about the degree of self-reliance a country wants to have following the principles of comparative advantage.
  • If some protection is needed for new areas to develop, that may be okay.
  • But one should not aspire to be self-sufficient behind high tariff walls.
  • That would only breed inefficient and high-cost structures that cannot compete globally.

What is it that gives a country an edge over others in attaining comparative advantage?

  • In the area of agriculture and food, research reveals that put a country an edge over others in attaining comparative advantage.
    • the efforts and resources that a country puts in agri-research and development (agri-R&D)
    • its extension from lab to land
    • investing in irrigation to boost yields
    • efficiency in marketing and processing the produce
    • taking it from farmers’ fields to consumers’ tables or export destinations

Out of which, agri-R&D plays a very crucial role in giving a country an upper edge over others in attaining the comparative advantage.

Significance of agri-R&D

Ample literature to substantiate

  • There is ample literature to show that agri-R&D raises total factor productivity and makes agriculture more competitive globally.
  • If India wants to be fully self-reliant in food, it is generally agreed that it must invest at least 1 per cent of its agri-GDP in agri-R&D.

Way Forward

Economic Survey (2021-22) and Budget

  • It explicitly highlighted the correlation between spending on agri-R&D and agricultural growth.
  • But the budgets of both the Union government and the states put together reveal that the expenditure on agri-R&D and education hovers around 0.6 per cent of agri-GDP.

This is way below the minimum cut off point of 1 per cent and government policy must urgently work towards raising this substantially.

Private Sector

  • The private sector needs to come forward and help India attain supremacy in agri-R&D and innovation systems and a hub for exports and agri-technology.

Innovation companies and their unique selling proposition (USP)

  • There are some global and local companies like Bayer, Syngenta, MAHYCO, Jain Irrigation, and Mahindra and Mahindra that spend a considerable amount of their turnover on R&D programmes and developing high-tech inputs.
  • The USP of these companies is that they develop technology that
    • increases productivity
    • addressing
      • the current challenges of
        • limited net sown area
        • depleting water resources
        • vulnerability to climate change
      • the need to produce nutrient-rich food

Incentives

  • The government should come out with policies that incentivize private companies to expand their R&D programmes and invest more financial resources in development projects, which have the potential to overcome the challenges of the current agrarian setup of India.

Practice Question for Mains

  1. The need of the hour is to focus on increasing expenditure on ARE and other development projects, which can aid in the sustainable growth of the Indian agriculture sector. Discuss. (250 Words, 15 Marks)
Referred Sources

IE

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